JAC’s Board of Directors
If you believe in our work and would like to be considered for a seat on our Board, please click here to learn more.
Becca Pickus – Interim Co-Chair
Becca Pickus is a Lecturer in the Social Theory and Practice (STP) Program in the Residential College (RC) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. There, she teaches a variety of courses about prison arts; anti-carceral organizing; and/or critical pedagogy as a tool for resistance. She teaches classes in the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP), in which students co-facilitate weekly creative arts workshops with incarcerated artists in Michigan prisons, and in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. Becca has extensive experience working in small, justice-focused non-profit organizations; prison arts programs; and in anti-racist organizing and advocacy work.
Patrick Burns, Treasurer, Interim Co-Chair
Patrick Burns is a playwright, director, and composer who has performed off-Broadway, regionally and in national tours. His plays have been produced off-Broadway and regionally and his writing has been featured online in The Atlantic, The Chronicle for Social Change, and Stage Agent. Passionate about prison reform, diversity & representation, foster care and socially-conscious, entertaining storytelling, Patrick’s musical From Foster Care to Fabulous has delighted audiences across the country while raising money for the foster care community. He can be found online at http://patrickburns.me/ and on social media with the handle @CantPatThis.
Julia Mascioli, Vice-Chair
Julia Mascioli is the Deputy Director of Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, a DC nonprofit organization that uses books, writing, and community engagement to awaken incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people to new possibilities for their futures. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Emerson College. She is a writer whose short fiction has been published in several literary journals; she is the winner of the District Lit Reader’s Choice Award.
Jaren Crump, Secretary
Jaren Crump is a seasoned accounting and business administration specialist who has dedicated his professional career to improving the lives of others. He entered the workforce in healthcare/administration for the the State of New Jersey’s Department of Human Services, and ultimately served as a Business Office Manager/Director for several organizations, including Genesis Healthcare. Additionally, Jaren is socially and politically active, championing numerous social justice issues facing contemporary America, such as racial and economic disparities, gender inequality, and justice reform. Jaren’s introduction to progressive initiatives came from an internship at the Entertainment Industries Council in Washington, DC. He now works with Impact Justice, a national innovation and research center advancing new ideas and solutions for justice reform. He has a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Hofstra University.
Shiloah Symone Coley
Shiloah Symone Coley is a visual artist, currently pursuing her MFA in Studio Art in Washington, D.C. She interrogates her own Blackness and self-perception by deconstructing and reconstructing her own identities with interactive wood assemblage collages. Her studio practice is inseparable from her community work rooted in making the arts more accessible. She designed and facilitated art programming primarily centered on identity and cross-cultural understanding with Play Africa, the Madison Children’s Museum, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has worked with court-involved youth through The Bubbler in Madison, WI, and is especially interested in using the arts as a tool for liberation and agency-activation with system-impacted youth. Feel free to connect with her on Instagram @blckslimshady, her comic-making alter-ego.
Annie Buckley is an award-winning professor and the director of the School of Art + Design at San Diego State University. She founded Prison Arts Collective, a statewide program dedicated to expanding access to the transformative power of the arts to incarcerated people in California. She has presented her art and advocacy work at national and international conferences including in Ireland and Belgium and her creative practice embraces image, text, and participatory practice.
Anderson Smith, Ph.D.
Dr. Anderson P.C. Smith, received his Ph.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University. He teaches creative writing in both medium and maximum-security prisons in New York. He holds a Master’s in Philosophy and Master’s in Education for the Teaching of English, and a Master’s in Fine Arts for Creative Writing, with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications. He is currently researching the effects of literature when used in service to people with criminal conviction histories, post-incarceration. Anderson loves a good mystery novel, performing spoken word poetry, and singing embarrassing songs (as loud as possible), to his wife, three boys, and cat.
Originally form San Antonio, Texas, Brett Gonzalez is an artist currently incarcerated in a federal facility in Ft. Worth, Texas. When first imprisoned a friend encouraged expression through drawing as a coping mechanism for his new environment. Inspired by this new sense of empowerment, he enrolled in the institution’s Hobby Craft program where he received a surprisingly thorough art education from another inmate. Brett’s deep love of art, found in an unlikely environment, fuels his desire to support other system impacted artists as they discover art for themselves.
JAC’s Advisory Council
We are still in the process of building our Advisory Council. If you believe in our work and would like to serve as an Advisor, please contact email@example.com.
“I’ve found my niche in life despite being in prison for 42 years. I have found that prisons are created internally and are truly found everywhere. I have also discovered that the secrets to break down prison walls are inside each person and I treasure sharing this realness with people. I keep my light glowing through expressing my inner thoughts, vibes and feelings in my poetry and prose writing.”
John R. Whitman, PhD
John is the Director and Executive Producer of Camisary, Inc., co-founded the Museum for Black Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Washington, DC, and taught in graduate schools at American University, Babson College, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and The University of Alabama in Huntsville. John’s photographs have been purchased byThe National Geographic Magazine and other publications. He is co-author of Understanding the Social Economy of the United States (University of Toronto, 2015) and Delivering Satisfaction and Service Quality (American Library Association, 2001), has published chapters in textbooks on entrepreneurship and law, including in Intellectual Property, Entrepreneurship, and Social Justice (Elgar, 2015), and authored scholarly articles published in peer reviewed journals. He has a BA from Boston University, EdM from Harvard University, and PhD from the University of Toronto.
“Incarceration was a catalyst for change in my life. I became a self-taught artist inside, and spent my years building an art therapy program that still runs in D.C.I. today.
Since my release, I have networked relentlessly behind the principles of arts access and opportunity for those who are currently or formerly incarcerated. I am the curator for the Ohio Prison Arts Connection and I created the Returning Artists Guild in 2019. The guild is a network of 25 (and growing) currently and formerly incarcerated artists.
The Returning Artists Guild is the way that I am creating solutions for artists in re-entry with other artists in re-entry. As an artist, I have struggled internally working within the context of the system, even in the arts, because my heart belongs to prison abolitionism. However, I have chosen to continue the work and my goal is not to change everyone’s mind about prison. My goals are more practical: to provide arts access, exhibition opportunities, and a community for incarcerated artists to come home to. For the artists in re-entry, I’m providing a platform, a community, entrepreneurship, exhibition, professional development, workshops, and networking opportunities. If the resources we need exist, I’ll find them; if they don’t exist, I’ll create them.”
Matt Malyon is a writer, teacher, and jail chaplain living in Washington’s Skagit Valley. In 2015 he founded Underground Writing, a creative writing program serving migrant, incarcerated, recovery, and other at-risk communities through literary engagement and personal restoration. Matt is also the Founder of One Year Writing in the Margins, an initiative “challenging teachers and writers to spend one year facilitating creative writing workshops outside the academy, in at-risk communities, where the transforming powers of reading and writing can be a matter of life and death”.
A ceramics artist who has headed the William James Association since 2001, Laurie has facilitated Arts-in-Corrections programs for incarcerated men, women and youth since 1989. Collaborating with the California Arts Council and others during the 1990’s, she facilitated the development of programs for the California Youth Authority and Arts in Mental Health. Over the past 15 years, she has worked successfully with the National Endowment for the Arts’ Office of Accessibility to establish artist-in-residence programs with five facilities run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. She has a degree in Economics and Community Studies from UC-Santa Cruz and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County.
Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, is one of the country’s leading experts on sentencing policy, race and the criminal justice system. He has directed programs on criminal justice policy reform for 40 years, and is the author of some of the most widely-cited reports and publications in the field. The Atlantic magazine has described him as a scholar who has “reframed how Americans view crime, race, and poverty in the public sphere.” His 1995 report on racial disparity and the criminal justice system led the New York Times to editorialize that the report “should set off alarm bells from the White House to city halls – and help reverse the notion that we can incarcerate our way out of fundamental social problems.” In 2018 Mauer was named a “Frederick Douglass 200” awardee as one of 200 individuals “who best embody the spirit and work of Frederick Douglass.” Race to Incarcerate, Mauer’s groundbreaking book on how sentencing policies led to the explosive expansion of the U.S. prison population, was a semifinalist for the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 1999. A second edition was published in 2006 and a 2013 graphic novel version was cited by the American Library Association as one of the “Great Graphic Novels” of the year. Mauer is also the co-editor of Invisible Punishment, a 2002 collection of essays by prominent criminal justice experts on the social cost of imprisonment, and co-author of The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences.
Lateef Mtima is a Professor of Law at the Howard University School of Law. After graduating with honors from Amherst College, Professor Mtima received his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School, where he was the co-founder and later editor-in-chief of the Harvard BlackLetter Journal. Mtima is the Founder and Director of the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice, an accredited Non-governmental Organization Member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Carole Alden was born 1960 in Orleans, France to American parents, and grew up primarily in northern ldaho and Colorado. Her dad was a forestry professor and mother a librarian. Nature and self education were the things she was exposed to the most as a child. They continue to guide the majority of her work. Carole married young and had five children from two marriages that spanned twenty years. She has no formal education nor art training beyond high school. Drawing was something she took up in prison. Prior to that, Carole was a fiber artist with pieces in multiple museum collections. She taught herself to crochet while incarcerated and continues to create a variety of sculptures and wall hangings for venues ranging from political to natural.
Born and raised in Washington D.C, Chris grew up under extremely difficult circumstances. Poverty, drug addiction, and gun violence was the everyday norm in his community. At the age of 17, he was charged with a crime, convicted, and sentenced to natural life in prison. It was during times of isolation that he decided to not only to turn his life around, but to make a difference in the lives of people who currently live in poverty-stricken communities similar to his childhood surroundings. “Many years ago, I committed my life to self-improvement and helping others. I sat in a dark cell and wrote up what I now call my Master Plan. A plan to build a business empire and help others.”
The Justice Arts Coalition Steering Committee was launched at the 2015 Arts In Corrections Conference, where approximately 40 people met in two facilitated sessions to discuss the possibility of creating a national network to support the work of organizations and individuals across the field. A group of volunteers formed as the Steering Committee to investigate the needs and benefits of such an organization. Since then, the Steering Committee has surveyed the field, completed a feasibility study, and laid the groundwork for JAC, which they determined should grow out of the Prison Arts Coalition website. Over the last few years, Steering Committee members have contributed endless hours, valuable wisdom, and immense amounts of enthusiasm towards the development of JAC, and many will continue to do so as Advisors and Board members.
Alma Robinson, Executive Director of CA Lawyers for the Arts
Laurie Brooks, Executive Director of the William James Association
Kyes Stevens, Founder/Director of Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project
Curt Tofteland, Founder/Director Shakespeare Behind Bars
Victoria Sammartino, Founder of Voices UnBroken
Ella Turenne, Founder of BlacWomyn Beautiful
Freddy Gutierrez, Teaching Artist at the Artistic Ensemble
Henry Frank, Intern at the William James Association
Jane Golden, Director of Philadelphia Mural Arts
Laura Pacenco, Director of Project Paint
Beth Thielen, Teaching Artist
Lesley Currier, Founder/Director of Marin Shakespeare
Mary Cohen, Founder/Director of Oakdale Community Choir
Katherine Vockins, Founder/Director of Rehabilitation Through the Arts
Kat Kambes, Director of Operations at Jail Guitar Doors
Wendy Jason, Manager of the Prison Arts Coalition website